SANCTIFICATION IS NOT SIMPLY A GREAT BLESSING
To call sanctification simply a great blessing is to rob it of its distinctive qualities. It is something more than a blessing. It is a blessing after a different order. It is a second work wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost. Many people have grown merry over the words “second blessing.” They say that they have gone much further along in the spiritual numerals; that they have advanced into the hundreds and thousands. So has the writer. But these blessings were all in the regenerated life arising at moments of repentance, prayer, submission, and Christian work, and touching not the life of which we are writing. There is another blessing so peculiar, so distinct, that when a man experiences it, although he had felt ten thousand blessings before, he would ever after call this one the “second blessing.”
I am afraid that the laughter directed at the expression arises from the thoughtlessness of mirth or the failure to recognize the real work and life covered by the words. It would be well for Methodist preachers, ere they laugh publicly over the expression, to turn to the works of the founder of our Church, Mr. Wesley, and see how frequently and certainly he used it. In writing to Mrs. Crosby in 1761 he says: “Within five weeks five in our band received the second blessing.” In 1763 he writes: “This morning one found peace and one the second blessing.” To Miss Jane Hilton, in 1774, he writes: “It is exceedingly certain that God did give you the second blessing, properly so called. He delivered you from the roots of bitterness, from inbred sin as well as actual sin.”
Nor is this all. The expression is not simply Wesleyan, but you might say scriptural; for Paul (in 2 Cor. i. 15) says to the Christians whom he is addressing: “I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit.” The proper translation of the last word should not be “benefit,” but “grace;” and is so rendered in the marginal reading.
The Greek word is charis, which is translated “grace” one hundred and fifty times in the New Testament. Thus properly translated the verse reads: “I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second grace.” The blessing of sanctification is evidently something more than a great blessing. As for great blessings, all of us have had them who are Christians; but not all have had the second blessing, for a great blessing is not necessarily the second blessing. My beloved brethren in the ministry, who differ with me, if you come to glorying in great blessings, so will I. Let me become a fool in such glorying. Have you had great blessings? So have I. Have you had a number? So have I. And yet not one of these was the second blessing. Some of them I received in company with ministers who read these lines; some in the presence of various congregations I have served; and still others alone. And yet not one of these was the second blessing. Certainly it seems that the writer might be able to speak intelligently and discriminatingly when he humbly but firmly asserts that there is a second blessing for the child of God, altogether different from the multitude of gracious experiences that fill and glorify the Christian life.
The expression “great blessing,” in connection with the work of entire sanctification, is misleading. The attention of the seeker is thereby directed to an emotion instead of a work and final state. The feeling may be more or less intense, according to temperament, condition, and other things I might mention. It is not a necessary feature of sanctification that a person should be overwhelmed. Some may be; but the majority are not. It is a purifying and filling rather than an overwhelming, a filling of the soul rather than the falling of the body. I grant that some have been perfectly prostrated for moments and minutes; but many have not this torrent-like baptism, and yet are as soundly sanctified as the other class.
Some of whom I have read, and some whom I have known, in receiving the blessing suddenly became conscious of a profound, unearthly, immeasurable calm and sweetness of soul. In the very core and center and heart of the experience is heard the testimony of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to the fact that this is sanctification. Thus was it with Dr. Clarke, Benson, Carvosso, Lovick Pierce, and others. Dr. Pierce said that for minutes he felt that he could live without breathing, so unutterable was the calm in his soul. Dr. Thomas C. Upham, writing about it, says: “I was then redeemed by a mighty power, and filled with the blessing of perfect love. There was no intellectual excitement, no marked joys when I reached this great rock of practical salvation; but I was distinctly conscious when I reached it.”
This is the point I make: that to lay the emphasis upon the emotional feature is misleading. It is as unwise here as it is in conversion to demand certain exalted states as the criterion in such a case. The instant we make an overwhelming rapture the standard experience, that instant we grieve and discourage many, and make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to secure the longed-for blessing. The writer cannot but insist that it is not the great joy felt at the moment that should constitute the after-rejoicing of the sanctified man, but the great work that was done in him at that time. The work is the wonderful thing; the work is the divine accomplishment to be rejoiced over. It may have for its proclaimer a great joy or a great calm or peace; but that is a small matter compared to the work itself.
The joy will subside, in a measure; the peace may have its variations; but the work done in sanctification remains. Glory to God for the work! Earthly conditions and experiences may beat like waves upon you; but, rock-like, the work itself abides, resisting every wave and outliving every storm. People and surroundings may change; failure and disappointment and loss may crowd into the life; but there, enthroned in the heart, is this perfect love to God and man that changes not, an inward calm and rest that never departs, and a faith in God that remains unshaken.
Yes, sanctification is a great blessing; but the greatness is not in the emotions which accompany it, but in the work of sanctification itself. And while the sanctified man cannot but rejoice in the possession of a peace and rest that never leave him, yet his deepest joy is in the constant realization of the work itself; that he is crucified with Christ; that he is dead to the world, and alive to God as never before; that inward sin is dead; that love reigns supreme in the heart, and that Christ abides within in a fullness and with a constancy delightful and amazing.
If God’s people, instead of doubting and denying, would humbly and prayerfully seek for sanctification as they did for conversion, then, in the language of the pastoral address of the General Conference of 1832, “our class-meeting and love-feasts would be cheered by the relation of the experiences of the higher character, as they now are with those which tell of justification and the new birth.” – Beverly Carradine
–Pastor Ward Clinton